How to Clean a Catalytic Converter?

A catalytic converter is an exhaust conveying system that converts toxic gas coming from an internal combustion engine into a less harmful pollutant through a process called “redox reaction.”

It is usually used with internal combustion engines which use petrol or diesel as fuel and are often constructed to last a lifetime on the vehicle. However, it could break down as a result of wear and tear, especially when there are cases of unattended repairs in other parts of the vehicle.

To avoid needless conditions and keep your car in perfect condition, knowing how to clean a catalytic converter is a skill you have to acquire. Discover steps on how to clean a catalytic converter, following various methods and materials to use.

To begin with, you can get the Catalytic converter in good condition by manually dismantling the converter from beneath the vehicle and washing it, i.e., after you must have deduced the sources of the converter’s fault, whether from it being clogged.

Meanwhile, if it is to clean the converter without any course to its removal, you can equally get this done. When you start noticing a reduction in the release of black smoke from the exhaust system and quicker acceleration, then you have yourself a successfully clean operation, leaving your converter in good condition again.

cleaning catalytic converter

How To Clean A Catalytic Converter

As I earlier mentioned, the catalyst converter helps to reduce toxic emissions generated by the combustion engines, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, hydrocarbon, etc., and they are often referred to as emission regulator components in the car exhaust system.

However, the first thing to do after thorough observations is by cleaning it before making the option of replacing the catalytic converter, as it is very expensive. You will discover how to clean your catalytic converter and also how to use a catalytic converter cleaner as we progress.

You can set time, period, or schedule dates on when you should have your catalytic converter cleaned. And then, start by dripping into the gas tank a cleaning liquid/solution. You could either use Cataclean, clean the catalytic converter with lacquer thinner, or decide to clean catalytic converters with vinegar.

And if this doesn’t get you satisfied, then probably the dirt down there requires you to remove the Catalytic Converter, and this procedure is called the deep clean.

  • Take out from under the car, the catalytic converter component
  • Have a big Container of mixed hot water and dishwashing detergent.
  • Then deep the converter into the mixture, getting it soaked for a long time.
  • Remove it from the mixture and allow it to dry. Immediately after dry, fix the catalytic converter back to where it was initially assembled and test it to see its performance for better operation.

catalytic converter filter

How To Clean Catalytic Converter Best Method

I’d say, in my own opinion, there is no best method of cleaning the catalytic converter, it only depends on whatever the condition of the vehicle is at the time. It could require normal basic cleaning or deep cleaning, but you have to know the problem first or the source of such a condition.

Then you make proper observations and testing, and that is when you’d know whether it’s severe or not.

It’s not a difficult task if you have the right knowledge on how to unclog a catalytic converter and the necessary tools for removal. Once you have every tool, to lift the vehicle, to unbolt the screws, a vessel to soak the converter, a pressure washer, an automotive degreaser, and penetrating oil, then you can go ahead and follow these steps:

  • Make sure your engine is in a cool condition before taking any step. Don’t start when the temperature of the car is hot.
  • Lift your car with your Jack as high as possible to be able to contain your body under and a jack stand to hold your car at that needed position.
  • Get your Oxygen sensor wrench or likable tool capable of removing the car’s oxygen sensor.
  • Use the penetrating oil on the bolt to easily get it removed. This is only for vehicles that don’t have their catalytic converter welded firmly with the turbo. If not, then you need the assistance of a knowledgeable mechanic in that field.
  • Take out the converter carefully after loosening the bolt. Then shake it to know if it makes a rattling sound. If it does, then a replacement is the only option.
  • But if there was no sound, that’s better, just clean the converter and pressure wash internally.
  • Take a vessel, it could be a container or a bowl, fill it with a mixture of degreaser and heated water.
  • Deep the converter into the degreaser and hot water mix for not less than 30min or maybe an hour.
  • Remove the converter from the hot water and degreaser mixture and rinse very well using the pressure washer again which you must have set to low. Then dry it.
  • Fix the whole thing back after it must have been dried then have a ride to observe its condition.

How To Clean Catalytic Converter Without Removing it

A different approach towards getting the converter free from clogs or other harmful residues doesn’t require taking the converter apart or any loosening, just the use of a Catalytic converter cleaner.

Below you will find the step on how to clean your catalytic converter yourself without going to get a mechanic.

  • Get a Catalytic converter cleaner liquid or solution that is compatible with your car. Though some cleaners are selective of whether gasoline or diesel while some work on both.
  • Pour the Catalytic converter cleaner into the fuel tank according to the prescribed amount stated in the type of cleaner manual. Ensure you’re not using more than you’re supposed to use as this can cause greater damage to the converter and have fuel inside your car.
  • After adding the cleaner inside the fuel tank, take a drive around maybe a couple of miles, though some cleaner’s tag will mention how far you should drive.

This helps spread the catalytic converter cleaner inside the tank to clean the converter or exhaust system. Get your car heated up to burn away residue, and get the converter unclogged.

catalytic converter


Do Catalytic Converter Cleaning Sprays Work?

To keep various components in your vehicle clean, like the oxygen sensors, catalytic converter, the vehicle’s cylinder heads, and the injector for the fuel, you can use a proper cleaning solution, and they are sure to do the job.

An example of this is the Cataclean cleaning solution/liquid. Although there are several evaluation users tendered, notwithstanding, they are not enough to point out that these sprays are intense techniques on the said deal at best and snake oil at worst.

Affirmatively, the EPA has accepted the use of Cataclean, notwithstanding the option to discover the source of the problem.

Does the Use of a Catalyst Converter Cleaner Make The Converter Clean?

The specially formulated catalytic converter cleaner solution that was poured into the fuel tank and then you’re good to go looked too extreme and could be doubted, but it worked. If you want to know more details and accounts, there are many recommendations on the net, like YouTube, for example.

The catalytic converter cleaner will enable your car to have a smooth run and easily avoid any issues with emissions.

If you have a clogged catalytic converter, specifically from carbon, then replacing the catalytic converter is the best option… However, you can have a fine operation by getting it clean with a catalytic converter cleaner.

Can I Pour a Converter Cleaner While Having a Full Tank?

The catalytic converter cleaner operates with the mixture of gasoline in the fuel tank to create a combination that can be cleaned when you start your engine and have a long-distance drive till you notice the changes.

Therefore it is vital that the quantity of the cleaner solution (Cataclean) to fuel is close to the prescribed volume when cleaning starts however, don’t make the mistake of pouring the Cataclean while having a full tank of gasoline. It will not yield good results.

What Happens If You Don’t Fix a Catalytic Converter?

Since a malfunctioning catalytic converter won’t be able to regulate the toxic emissions from the engine, one of the symptoms of a bad catalytic converter is the increase in harmful pollution against the environment. Also, one effect you will most likely come across is the smell of fume gases coming out from it. In particular, the exhaust gases will emit a sulfur odor.

How Long Can I Drive With A Bad Catalytic Converter?

The risk of driving a car with a Malfunctioning catalytic converter can be taken, Just make sure to join one or two parts together with the catalytic converter then driving your car can be possible. Although, there will be a retarding operation with the Catalytic converter.

But there’d be an issue for those whose vehicles have their Catalytic Converter welded fully to the vehicle.

In some cases, it may merge directly or completely over time and requires you to have it changed as soon as possible.

What Does Seafoam Fix?

You must have heard about seafoam and how to clean catalytic converters with it; however, seafoam enables large and sticky residues in the converter to dissolve or break down. They are used for various engine parts as well. Because of its ability to clean tensions from a chain, cases of crankiness of gas or diesel oil, solenoid (VVT), and clear out the oil path.

Final Words:

You may be asking what the whole point of cleaning the catalytic converter is or how to clean the Catalytic converter. When can you just replace the catalytic converter? Yes, you can replace it, but after knowing you can save cost from the catalytic converter cleaning service with a smooth-running system, then cleaning the converter is worth the shot.

Knowing several ways how to clean a catalytic converter is an added advantage because it would help you maintain your vehicle shape and prevent unwanted havoc to your catalytic converter.

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Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

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